, Newburyport, MA


August 19, 2013

From sea to rising sea


It’s time the rest of us adopted the same sense of urgency, the same willingness to document what is happening to our planet, the same lack of comfort with the near future, the same desire for action in the face of so much inaction, as has the beach alliance, which listened to Corps of Engineers staff patiently describing how little they can do within all their regulations, which are designed primarily to serve large-scale commercial boating.

According to slides shown recently by Jerry Klima, a former Salisbury selectman, the corps came to the Merrimack initially in the 1800s because of the hazards commercial ships faced trying to sail over the sandbar at high tide to reach the river. Today, business is certainly still involved; one look at all the boats moored and docked in the lower Merrimack tells us that; it’s just that the commerce is measured with many small boats, rather than with the large vessels of the 19th and 20th centuries.

A recent editorial in this newspaper noted the Coast Guard Station Merrimack is one of only two surf stations in New England, with a specially trained crew to handle surf that reaches a height of 8 feet or more 36 times per year. The other is Chatham on the Cape.

Not all rivers are this troublesome when they enter the ocean. I am familiar with the Connecticut where it enters Long Island Sound at Old Saybrook. A veteran small-boat captain notes that while the Connecticut River does have its currents and rips, it doesn’t carry the reputation for danger associated with Plum Gut, between another Plum Island and the northeastern tip of Long Island.

As for our Plum Island attracting a lot of interest, author Bill Sargent of Ipswich says academics and consultants see it as a test case for how this area’s people will deal with sea level rise and climate change, so we can expect to hear more from them about the science and experience that will help shape our decisions in the months and years to come.

The headline is from the spring 2013 Clark University alumni magazine, which featured the school’s climate change research.


John Harwood of Newbury is a retired community journalist and a patriot.

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